Ask Tim Berry – Tips for Business Plan Competitions

So honestly, in the last six weeks, I’ve read maybe 75 business plans and I’ve participated in, as judge or investor, maybe oh, 2-3 dozen business pitches with slides, and most of them in MBA level venture competitions where there’s a format that gives
the entrepreneurs 10 or 15 minutes uninterrupted to do their slide show and then gives the judges and/or investors 10 or 15 minutes to ask questions. So somebody has just asked me to summarize what comments do I make after a six week period with that much intense review of plans and presentations? And I do have a few thoughts. First of all, separate in your mind the business plan in the context of presenting a business to outsiders from the business plan that most businesses ought to use and manage and review and revise. This is a special case business plan for the venture competition or the angel investment and one thing I notice is that we should all be careful about summarizing. Hit the highlights. Use simple English. Use a lot of white space. Don’t dive down into the science of it and prove the science or the technology. Your business plan readers want to know the core essential business. They want to know in that context, management team size of market, defensibility, secret sauce, exit strategy, financial projections. The basics. And don’t be afraid to summarize. When I was in business school, that many years ago, a resume expert pointed out to us that even the President of the United States can get a resume into one page. Well, even the next great Microsoft or Google can get a business plan summarized into 10 or 15 or 20 pages. Use bullet points and white space and clearly summarize. With pitches, give your audience a break. Don’t try to memorize, that’s disastrous. On the other hand, be organized. This is show business, keep us interested. Run through the high points. Don’t expect people to read bullet points. Don’t ever have bullet points that are supposed to be read. Illustrate your talk, but expect to be making eye contact and making a point, and using the slide presentation as props to run through and stick to the highlights. Again management team, how big is the market. Tell the story, why does somebody want this? Personalize. Ralph wants it. Why? Mabel wants it. Why? And then go through, what is the secret sauce. How are you different? Why would your business proposition be more interesting than all the others? And who are all the others? and how are you going to make money here, and how are you going to make money for the
investors? What will your exit strategy be? Who will you sell it to? What, overall, is the option for the investors
in three to five years? And keep it short, keep it pithy keep it interesting. And wow, you know, that’s a big question for a three and half, four minute format. So there’s my best summary. And thanks, and I’m Tim Berry.

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